For the unaware, Koknese might seem like a small dot on map of Latvia, not even a town, just a village. However, this small dot hides a whole world – wonderful, a bit mysterious but definitely worth to discover. There are not that many places in Latvia (and even beyond its borders), where two rivers come together so beautifully, creating a romantic background for the ancient Koknese castle ruins. Here you can let your thoughts and gaze wander along the River Daugava, following the retreating day. This may be experienced only by the lucky ones who are resting on the banks of Daugava or taking a walk on the picturesque nature trail that leads through the green park, along river Pērse, castle ruins, cosy Lutheran Church up until Likteņdārzs.
The neighbouring Koknese park is much more than just a network of paths and trees. The Katrina teahouse is a perfect place for people who enjoy beautiful views or for lonesome readers. Moreover, the history is just a touch away, hidden in the Celtic crosses, Swedish cannons and reflections of castle ruins in Daugava waters. On the bank of river Pērse, you will find the ‘Pērse girl’ (definitely a delight for Estonians). Not far away, you can also find other magical creatures in the park, for example, the faun, which almost seems alive, because with a sudden splash of water it can startle a distracted passer-by. People who do not wander around the world concerned and exhausted by material life, will see that trees here have taken the shapes of mythical boats, mysterious castles, sharp-eyed owls and even the legendary catfish. Butterflies, big flowerpots, and arches covered in tulle, seem regular for Koknese inhabitants, but for tourists, these are picture-worthy items that create a special atmosphere. Koknese carries the name of Lāčplēsis strong and kind friend Koknesis. In honour of this, you can find a wooden ruler in the park, which shows how tall both these characters could have been.
On a calm and warm summer night, you do not have to travel far to enjoy culture among nature. You can have a musical adventure by visiting a concert held in the ruins, where the sounds of music intertwine with nature and the flowing sounds of two rivers, forest and grey castle ruins. The atmosphere is so lovely, you could not imagine a more delightful place!
It is fascinating to think about what kind of landscape is hidden under the waters of the Daugava. This is visible only to the inhabitants of the depths, including the huge catfish, who can take some fishermen by surprise. Generally, inhabitants of Koknese are not afraid of the catfish, because they are the only ones in Latvia and, quite possibly, in the world, who annually organize the celebration of wakening of the cat fish, during which you can hold a sword, shoot a bow, play unique wooden board games, trade, catch some retro action in the tweed run, wake up the cat fish with music and fun and enjoy life and nature fully. Indeed, Koknese people know how to celebrate. Both amongst themselves and with visitors.
Speaking of unique things, both parishes that have been named after living creatures, are noteworthy in their own way – the Irši parish has a very warm and welcoming atmosphere that surrounds the old Irši manor store and wild deer garden ‘Zemitāni’, but the Bebri parish is famous for their apiaries, old Vecbebri manor, natural assets and activities. The white countryside road that goes past the Vecbebri technical school is one of the most picturesque roads in Latvia – vast space of fields and meadows, romantic cow pastures, real forests and farms. Peace and quiet. Beauty that requires no words.
Often the twists and turns of life lead us to places that we never thought of visiting or living in. However, maybe someone planned this on our behalf and we get to only think that everything happens for a reason – in the right moment and place.
Text by Mara Bitane